The visual perception of a dog is focused on the detection of food. It must be able to pick up, both during the day and at night, any movement, no matter how small. If a dog goes blind, it thus affects its entire life. Cataract – one of the most common causes of blindness – is no longer a permanent condition, however. The condition can usually be completely treated with surgery.
What is cataract? How does this disease affect our dogs?
Cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye of a dog. When the lens is clouded, it affects the dog's vision either completely or partially. If both eyes are affected, complete blindness results.
Not only older dogs are affected by this disease. Cataracts can also be caused by a congenital hereditary disease in the dog's eye. There are breeds that are affected more often than others.
For example, Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Afghan or the Boston Terrier are among the carriers of the genetic defect. This includes mixed breeds that originated from these breeds.
The causes of lens opacity
Normally the transparent lens is responsible for the refraction of light. It makes objects visible on the retina. The trigger of cloudiness is an increased amount of water in the transparent lens, which causes the lens fibers to swell up. The normally ordered fibers get out of their original order due to swelling and thus lose their transparency.
However, a clouding of the lens does not automatically mean that your dog will go blind. As the dog ages, it is normal for his lens to cloud and change. In so-called nucleosclerosis, the fibers of the inner lens no longer arrange themselves parallel to each other, and lose their transparency. This causes the eyes of older dogs to appear increasingly milky.
Primary cataract is a genetic defect, which is congenital or inherited. Besides purebred dogs, mixed breeds can also carry this defect. In this condition, the opacity affects the dog's field of vision either partially or completely.
Other causes of cataracts can be injuries or other diseases. For example, eye inflammations at the retina, as well as injuries of the cornea are possible triggers of the cataract. Metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus also often increase the accumulation of water in the lens, leading to cataracts.
Recognizing cataracts – what symptoms to look for?
The clearest sign of cataracts is in the lens of the dog's eye. At the beginning of the disease the lens slowly turns blue-greyish and appears dull. As time passes, the lens becomes lighter and lighter until it finally appears completely white.
However, the symptoms of cataract are usually only recognized when both eyes are equally affected. Only then the dog can no longer find its way around. Appears disoriented especially in unfamiliar surroundings. If the dog's eyesight is affected, this becomes noticeable relatively late.
Most dogs are safe on the road even with total blindness, so it is not noticeable to the owner for the time being. The distinctive senses of a dog support it in further orientation, especially in its familiar environment. This obscures the extent of the impairment.
It may take a few weeks, months or even years for both eyes to become cloudy in the same way.
Does my dog feel pain during the lens opacification procedure??
Normally the dog does not feel any pain during a cataract surgery. However, it can happen that the lens becomes increasingly brittle, and the lens protein enters the interior of the eye as a result. The body's attempt to fight the foreign body ends in a painful inflammation called uveitis.
Cataract, besides uveitis, can also lead to lens luxation. This means a displacement of the lens into the anterior chamber of the eye or even into the pupil. The lens is held in place by fibers, but these tear as the disease progresses. A consequence of lens luxation is increased intraocular prere, which in turn can lead to glaucoma.
Uveitis and lens luxation are painful. If you notice that your dog has difficulty holding up his eyes, they are swollen and there is secretion on them, then this must be examined. Treatment is by medication or surgery.
Can cataract be prevented?
In older dogs or primary cataract formation there is no possibility of prevention. In order to detect a congenital defect, a hereditary disease test is required. If this is positive, surgery should be considered at the onset of the disease.
If the dog becomes conspicuous by drinking more, urinating more frequently, or if its eyes are inflamed, the origin may be another disease such as diabetes. If left untreated or delayed, this could cause cataracts. To prevent, the underlying disease must be diagnosed quickly.
What helps with cataracts?
There is no purely medicinal treatment for dogs with cataract. An operation should be performed by an ophthalmologist, which can successfully restore the dog's eyesight. The doctor removes the clouded lens during this procedure. Replaces this with an artificial lens.
Before the dog is operated on, you should consult a specialist. This examines him first on basic diseases and scans the eyes from all sides to determine the origin of the cataract. Both the vitreous cavity and fundus need to be checked by ultrasound, as well as the function of the retina by an ERG. The result of this examination is used to prepare the therapy. Decides on the type of operation.
If an underlying disease is the cause of the impairment, treatment with medication can be attempted for the time being. Other eye diseases in the form of inflammations can also be treated in this way.
Important for a successful treatment of lens opacity is the early detection of a change in the eye, and the control by a veterinarian specializing in eyes. At the slightest suspicion you should already act, because waiting favors the progression of the disease.
Cataract – is surgery necessary?
Surgery of the eye is almost always advisable when the lens is cloudy. In the best case the dog can see again within 2-3 days after a surgical intervention.
The decision whether an operation is necessary or not depends on the preliminary examination. Here the doctor decides to what extent this can ensure an improvement in vision. If there is a chance for improvement or healing, the dog should be operated in any case.
If the ophthalmologist concludes that surgery would not be effective, your dog must be provided with eye drops for the rest of his life. These are to prevent possible inflammations if necessary. contain. If your dog's retina is already detached or another disease is the cause of the clouding, surgery does not make sense for the time being. Uveitis and lens luxation must be treated immediately.
The clouding of the lens can be surgically removed within a very short period of time. It is an outpatient treatment. To make the procedure as comfortable as possible, your dog will be put under general anesthesia. After the operation you can pick up your dog in the recovery room and take it home with you.
After the operation you will have to take care of your dog intensively for two to three weeks. During this time he must be regularly administered his medication. The control examinations are kept. The risk of the procedure is less than 10 percent.
Cataract is a quite treatable disease. The clouded vision can be significantly improved by surgery on the lens. If the clouding of the lens cannot be treated by surgery, your dog must be treated with medication in case of inflammation and must be regularly checked by a doctor.